Defense Secretary Ben Wallace expressed his anger at British officials over a prank call from an imposter claiming to be Ukraine’s prime minister, a fellow minister said.
Armed Forces Secretary James Heappey said Mr Wallace could “take a good hit” after the apparent security breach that the government has accused Russia of.
When asked about Mr Wallace and the fake call to LBC, Mr Heappey said: “He was pretty nasty. I think he was embarrassed that it happened and asked the department some pretty tough questions about how it happened.”
The minister added: “He can dish out a good fuck if he has to.”
Russia has been accused of “dirty tricks” and a cross-Whitehall security probe has been launched after Home Secretary Priti Patel and Mr Wallace were targeted.
The alarm was raised by Mr Wallace after he became suspicious during a 10-minute video call on Thursday, with the defense secretary publicly accusing Russia of being behind it.
The defense minister said it was a “desperate effort” but that “no amount of Russian disinformation, distortion and dirty tricks” could distract from the human rights abuses committed during the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s forces.
Ms Patel said she was also targeted. “That happened to me earlier this week too. A pathetic attempt to divide us in such difficult times. We stand by Ukraine.”
Mr Wallace’s Microsoft Teams video call was set up after an email, allegedly from an employee at the Ukrainian embassy, was sent to a government agency and then forwarded to the Ministry of Defense (MoD). The Independent understands.
Mr Heappey said the discussion was “bland” and the defense secretary had not disclosed anything sensitive – despite questions about Britain’s military plans.
“Ben is a guy who understands threats very well. He was very aware that he was on the phone with Microsoft Teams and as such he would never reveal confidential details on a platform that could be very easily intercepted,” he told Sky News.
“When the caller began asking pointed questions about our military intentions in the region … he became suspicious and ended the call.”
Meanwhile, Mr Heappey said Russia’s war in Ukraine “is not going well at all” but added: “Any notion that the military struggle will soon come to a combination is overly optimistic.”
The defense minister said the West could play a role in brokering a peace deal, but it was up to Ukrainians to decide what terms they could accept.
“This cannot go on indefinitely,” he told Sky News. “These are decisions that are the sole responsibility of President Zelensky and his government. It is not for the West to trade Ukrainian sovereignty.”
Mr Heappey said Putin bears the ultimate “guilt” for all war crimes committed by his forces in Ukraine – but warned that the entire Russian military chain of command would be held responsible for its actions.
“The evidence gathered points very strongly to war crimes in Ukraine,” he told Sky News after the deadly attack on a theater in the city of Mariupol.
He added: “It’s not just Putin who ends up being responsible for war crimes when evidence is collected and people are held accountable. Every single person in the military chain of command cannot just hide behind the line, they just follow orders.”
The Armed Forces Minister also said Russia’s latest rocket attack in western Ukraine was a cause for concern after a plane maintenance facility near Lviv airport was reportedly hit by the strike early Friday.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/ukraine-hoax-call-ben-wallace-priti-patel-b2038768.html Ukraine: Ben Wallace ‘slammed’ officers over prank call